Saturday, May 16, 2009


I like to read before I close my eyes for the night. Get involved with someone else's life, temporarily leave my own.

I've been re-reading some of my Robert Parker mysteries, and I'm very much involved the second time around. Was I skipping the first time I read the book?

Possibly -- I don't read word by word, except when I've got error messages, and have to study a computer manual. In Winnetka, Illinois, 1st grade, 2nd, and 3rd, I was taught speed-reading, along with writing (printing), arithmetic, and sex things, in a class called "How Humans Reproduce." It was this wonderful progressive education that made me a misfit when we moved to Harrisburg, where my teachers didn't like the fact that I couldn't write in cursive longhand, and I annoyed my classmates with the big words, sometimes "wicked" words I liked to use.

After a dozen Parker's, I'm currently re-reading Scott Turrow's "Personal Injuries," that I'd read when I was commuting between NY and Malibu, distracted with moving back to NY, and list-making for the moving van guys. We'd lived in Malibu while JC was doing a TV series; returned to NY while he was doing the musical, "Urinetown." (Performers go where the action is, and Broadway is a better place for JC the actor, who's done many leading roles in plays and musicals.)

Finishing the Turrow book as the plane landed back in NY, I remember the ending was powerful, but I couldn't have said what the plot was about, not till now, reading it again.

Turrow has a knife-cutting ability to get to the soul of a character, to describe pain, passion, emotion, fear. What a perfect book to re-discover, right now, when I'm writing, writing, writing. If I were working on a novel, I'd be researching, doing think-writing, leisurely outlining, leisurely jotting down random ideas.

Posting for a blog is night and day different. You're writing a small essay with a beginning, middle, and some kind of finish. Doing one every day -- whew! I'm not sure I can keep on doing it, but I'm doing it -- finding it's revving me up to keep going, write more, and more.

So Turrow is my buddy , a great companion now. I am reading only 4 or 5 pages a night. Trying not to speed-read. The moment I realize I'm skipping words, I stop.

When I finish the Turrow, I've got a batch of Elmore Leonard books I've picked out to re-read -- quirky leading men, complicated crimes, robberies, killings, by guys who've been in jail. Got a couple of months' supply lined up. And then ... Who? What?

Picking a new writer to keep me company at night is ... well, it's not like picking a lover. I'm going to be very reserved, cautious when I get a recommendation from a friend. And very skeptical -- reading a sample, 10 -20 pages at least, before making a commitment.

Want to hear something odd? I shy away from women writers, romances, female heroines. Being me, a soul-searcher with a tough, mean eye on myself for phoniness, falsity, and B.S, I wonder if it's competitiveness, some form of female prejudice, but I'm turning off the thoughts. I have to keep away from feminine ideas, a female's point of view, keep my distance from ME when I'm trying to read myself into slumber-land.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I mean it when I say "thanks," or "glad to meet you," or "I appreciate your help."

I usually make small conversation -- "your diction's good" -- "you seem to know all the answers to my questions" -- "have you been working here for long?" Or if person's hard to understand -- "what country are you in? India? The Philippines?"

Yes, I always thank the techies. And try to express my appreciation in a spur of the moment, fun way.

Why? Because we're dealing with strangers in places, in rooms in parts of the world we'll probably never see. If they're in New Delhi, I ask what time it is there, mention the weather in Manhattan, and ask what kind weather the techie's having in his town.

I want to make contact with the people with whom I'm connecting. It's becoming a larger part of my life, and obviously it's a very large part of theirs.

If someone's extra helpful, I joke and say I'd invite you over for coffee if you lived a little closer. And ask for their name. (Pronouncing it -- oh my, that can be tricky.)

Once a month I call in the reading for our gas meter. If the voice that answers is cheery -- sometimes at 9 AM a real human answers right away, without my being on hold -- I say, "You sound so peppy, as if you're in a good mood this morning!" Usually we exchange a chuckle and a few more words, like friends.

It's my life and the moment is mine (same as it's your life and the moment is yours), but I want to make it important -- not just because someone's sold me, told me, or helped me. Hey, we've shared something. We're miles and miles apart, but we've touched each other!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I can't avoid mirrors. My house is full of them. I wrote a post about this just the other day. I wrote loud and clear about mirrors in two of my books. I ought to follow and obey my own preaching ...

I have to say it one more time. Mirrors are for the young! To see who they are! To recognize, wonder, build a dream, picture themselves as a ... whatever... a princess, a prince, police chief, nurse ... whatever...

Put your kitten or puppy in front of mirror; they peer at it for a second or two -- not as long as little child perhaps -- you can sense that your pets see the image, wonder about it before they go on to more tangible things. (I find myself waiting for them to have fun, to play with the image.)

But sister, auntie, cousin, mother, wife, blogging Advice-Giver- Em is putting up a warning finger: Mirror mirror on the wall -- it's not your friend.

Around the age of sixteen, beware ... (Maybe a bit older --sixteen needs to observe the physical changes in one's face and body). When you stop growing in leaps and bounds around twenty, you better slow it down. Look at yourself perhaps once or twice a day before you go out, and check your outfit, make sure you're combed and clean. Because at twenty-five, you really ought to start breaking the habit.

Start counting; note how many times a day you're looking. Do you look in store windows you're passing on the street and see yourself, glassine, ghostly, transparent? Do it less. Ration it. Cut it down.

Mirror mirror on the wall -- it brings on the downfall of us all. (Rhyming makes it more fun to write about this.)

Thirty! That "happy birthday" is the right time to make a resolution. Use the mirror as a tool, for doing what you need to do to be presentable. Once done, it's done. You're done. Turn away.

You have to be vigilant So many things are telling us to see yourself, watch yourself, study yourself, squint, evaluate your prowess, your potential in love, commerce, career, sports -- all your prowesses may still be ascending, expanding, increasing but youth doesn't last forever.

Hey, I could be wrong. Take all the ages I've listed and add ten years to each one. And that'll help. But stop looking in the mirror. S - T - O - P. It's an obsession. It doesn't matter. It does not help you. It limits you. You are real. and what you see in the mirror is just an image.

What I'm saying is not just for females. It's a message to my guys, and everyone I know . "The privilege of mirrors belongs to the young." I wish I'd pay attention to what I preached on Page 666 and 698 in "Somebody." Bk II. And in "Karen of Troy," p.16, 38, 44, 95, 204. Track it down.

(Being a multinational family, I can say-- it ain't chopped liver, paté, grits, or pie with ice cream. It's basic, big deal Em Philosophy. So look it up on TheReadery and pay attention.

Try a day without a mirror. Go cold turkey.

It's a relief not to see, but just to be who you are.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


This is what my husband calls a laundry list. I'm tabulating what I've learned since January when I had a dial up modem. When it took 13 hours to update Norton Virus from 08 to 09; took 9 hours to download just the trial version of Word Perfect Office X 4.

Mid January, everything changed. Our son JD had been nagging me, gently, for more than a year. "You've got to get DSL. You're behind the times, Mom. You can research, you can download anything, everything in just a couple of minutes -- you can't really use the internet, Mom, if you don't upgrade your tools."

Okay. I upgraded. Didn't really feel it was necessary or essential, but when you son says you're behind the times, you pay attention!

Instantly, all my office chores, all the things I did on a daily basis were topsy-turvy unfamiliar.

My ability to download fast got me a fantastic new browser. Puzzling over it, struggling to create a consistent view for all the new things -- whiz bang -- I learned to transfer addresses, forward, open, close, various accounts, while big stuff was going on. We (web designer Fran, JD and I) were building me TheReadery and Em's Talkery, a blog -- html, URL stuff, tabs, bookmarks, with dial-up modem me, mile-a-minute signing in and out of seven -- yes, seven e-mail addresses with a passel of passwords.

Meanwhile, JC had bought a Mac. Big Musical Numbers, choreography, major leading roles JC learns and performs letter perfectly. JC fixes electrical circuits, toilets, sinks, drains, leaks, tiles, locks, pilot lights on the stove, the thermocouple on the furnace. A computer turns him into a dunce. So I, who am a natural computer person, while racing around doing all the other stuff, had to learn the basics on the Mac in order to help JC.

Same time, installing a router, more gigs of Mem on my Dell, fussing with 17 phone extensions -- crawling under desks, tables, behind steel cabinets, book shelves investigating jacks in corners that haven't been vacuumed for fifteen years.

Also trekking into the courtyard at the rear of our building, helping tech guys figure where our ancient wires came in, why we had static, trying to get rid of call-waiting, (I hate call-waiting), while I'm learning to write, edit, post a blog, how to find an IP address, make a link, clear my cache, install stats, gadgets, images, scan and crop jpg files.

Now that I'm 5 months old on the internet, I'm counting on being faster, smarter, more educated, shrewder when I hit 8 months, and brilliant when I'm one-year- old.

Yes, I'm bragging. I really have learned a lot. My head is fat with new routines, and I'm contemplating, yes, looking ahead -- learning about 64 bits versus 32, and quad processors for a new NEW computer, which means ... Holy Moley Minorka, installing all this tricky, bedeviling, intricate, confusing, somewhat unstable up-to-date stuff all over again! But yay hurray -- JD was right -- it's a whole new world, and I've joined it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I used to check myself in a small mirror I carried in my purse. Make sure my mascara and orange lipstick weren't smudgy, be sure there weren't specs of soot anyplace, or something awful like spinach on a tooth. But the times, and my traditions have changed.

There are still women who pull out a compact, after they've finished dining in a fancy restaurant, and reapply their lipstick -- eek, ick, yuck -- it not only seems rude and ridiculous -- it implies profound insecurity. It's unchic! Definitely a NO NO!

Let's get a little history going here. I started wearing makeup at age eleven. Pancake. And lipstick. I was sure my nose was huge (it isn't, it wasn't), but feeling like Cyrano, seeing my proboscis when I peered across my own face -- horrors -- the shine on it was horrible. So I'd lick my finger, rub it on the pancake, and pat it on my nose.

Then came adolescent blackheads, pimples, and a general tendency toward greasiness. At school I carried pancake and my sponge in a flowered zippered pouch I bought for 25 cents at Woolworth's, and re-applied pancake in the girls' room. Sometimes in an emergency, in the hallway as I traveled from class to class, I'd turn to the wall and quickly pat myself with the sponge.

Did I really? I did! Haven't thought about this for a long time, but I have a lunch meeting today to discuss various PR possibilities. I need to look my very best.

Ads keep reminding all of us to do more, much more, and there's a slew of new wonderful products to apply that are guaranteed to hide, cover, improve, create perfect skin, fabulous eyes, and lips. They are promoting stage makeup tricks.

I learned to apply stage makeup early on. Lining and shading the lips, lining upper and lower eyelids, making "ballerina" eyes ala Audrey Hepburn, highlighting/shadowing cheekbones, powdering lashes, augmenting your own lashes with false ones, layering on mascara, then powder, then more layers of mascara. It's all been in my repertoire for years. But the fact is, most of the tricks I learned for stage, are now what an ordinary teenager knows how to do.

(Small confession: I've never had the patience to "do" the tiny lower lashes. a lash by lash process that must be done with NO mistakes.)

It's time to get ready for the meeting. Though I wear very little makeup, it can take a half-hour to do slender subtle lines on my lids, pencil in my brows; and brush my lashes up with a dry mascara wand. Then, apply lipstick, a touch of palest pink and blot it till it's almost not there. (If you happen to see my picture someplace, take an extra good look.)

After lunch while we're discussing specifics, if I'm wondering how I look (of course I'll wonder, girls are brought up and taught to wonder), there will probably be a clean butter knife to glance at, or a quick check of myself in a teaspoon or tablespoon mirror.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Why am I having trouble taking my barre? Why am I procrastinating?

Barre taking is a discipline that's part of me like my clothing size, shoe size, glove size. The elements of this discipline are apparent in almost everything I do, especially in my writing. Writing, for me, is a form of exercise. (You can't escape what you were when you were a little tyke and I don't want to escape it. How many times already have I blogged, blabbed, bragged about "dancing.")

When I was that little tyke, if I'd could have known what I'd be right now, I'd have picked to be it! So why am I procrastinating, not solving the uncomfortable state I'm in? It's time to do my barre!

Why I don't stand up, turn and walk down my hallway, the hall on this floor that separates our windowed offices in the front of our building? (JC's office is directly across the hall from mine.) The studio is 20 feet away! Go! Get in there!

It's a studio theater. Off-white linoleum floor, 35 feet of tall beveled good mirrors (not fat mirrors), 65 chairs, some stacked on a raked platform where an audience can sit and watch my plays or ballets. Along the wall opposite the mirrors: Wooden double barre -- a low one for low stretches, a chest high one for plies. In the corner, a large TV set (like you'd find in a gym), and a professional treadmill for JC. TV and treadmill can be made to disappear by pulling a curtain. Curtains transform the light white studio into a "black box" small theater.

It's a great space. The floor is somewhat slippery. I wet the soles of my ballet slippers for pirouettes, and damp-mop the floor every so often, with a "slip no more" product.

There's a 5 X 10 foot padded leather mat near the treadmill for floor exercises.

Hey rich lady, you've got everything you need! You don't have to change your clothes, get dressed to rush off to a gym, undress, dress in exercise togs and find a space with other folks who need exercise. (Which I did when we lived in Malibu, and didn't enjoy -- it made my workout feel like a typical gym routine, which is definitely boring! And gym exercises -- especially the routines with weights -- build muscles I don't need or want.)

I lie on the mat and warmup my knees, legs, feet and torso for 6 to 9 minutes. How long is up to me. I go to the "maskers" barre which John built out of pipes, a small barre that I keep centered in the space. I take a 20 -to 25 minute ballet barre, consisting of typical ballet exercises that I've evolved for myself -- what I need to do in order to be able to dance my dance to the Vaughn Williams Music. (I've described this -- one of these days look up "dancing" in the labels, and you'll get the whole story.)

The dance, and how I do sections of it ... all I need to do is perform it. Full out. Inventively, being at the moment on the moment. Ala Zen. ("Zenning?") I can't find a verb for it, but you get the idea. It's never boring, but lately my mind's been wandering while I'm dancing it, and that is a symptom.

What I need to do is change my warm-up. Carefully. The sequence warms me up, but eight of this, four of that, with arms, without arms, bigger, smaller, tilt my head, don't bother with the head ... I need to do it another way, and I've temporarily run out of other ways ......

Ah ha! Use another tape? Use the barre recording I made ages ago, the one I don't use anymore? No ...

So why not turn over one of the CD's that's loaded in the playback machine and do my usual barre sequence to completely different music? Can't I do variations within the sequence? Surprise myself?

I will! Yes! It'll work! It will! It'll distract me during the damn stretches! I be inventing for 25 minutes -- not a robot doing the same old routine.

Wow! Thanks Fran, Sue, JC, JD, and Shareen (my gang). You said "Blog, Em --talk out loud on paper!" I did it! Got a new way to do what I have to do to feel good!.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I'm not a guy, I'm not cruising, looking to impress anyone with my sexual prowess. Is that why Viagra ads bother me?

And not just the V pill, but the others with their less memorable names. I'm somehow insulted by all of them.

Is it the TV-ated visions of moonlit evenings, the bathtub lovers -- how and when did they get the tub out there?

And the hand-holding, teasing loving couples -- pleasant normal looking actors, usually around forty something, the carefully constructed pre-foreplay dialogue? Yes, the visions and the actors annoy me like too much sticky sweet maple syrup on pancakes.

Also the guys who tell us how much they've learned about health problems
causing erectile problems -- diabetes, rheumatism, high blood pressure etcetera, all that laid out and sold to us with the not charming phrase, "after four hours ... call your doctor.

Oh really -- and who has a doctor they can reach after four hours of an undimished erection any time of the day or night? Does one head for the nearest ER?

And then there's the list of side effects to be wary of, to check immediately with your doctor -- same old list that's on just about everything -- upset stomach, heart burn, bloating, diarrhea, weight gain, constipation, sleeplessness, etcetera, etcetera ... if you feel any of those discomforts , STOP using, And CALL your poor overworked doctor's answering service who won't contact him unless it's an life and death emergency.

There aren't many things I really truly seriously hate but I hate those erectile dysfunction ads. Ads which make us AND OUR KIDS feel that you need a pill for reliable great sex, which imply even for the semi great, or not so great, that a pill is your insurance.

Okay, I'm a girl. There are rumors it helps girls. Is that what's bothering me -- I want girls to be included?

NO! We're bombarded with erectile ads from dinner time till the wee hours -- over and over and over, sex sex sex sex. I'm bugged because it's one more natural thing that's getting cockeyed, cuckoo, screwed up.

Thanks for nothing, you pill-makers! You may be helping some, but you're ruining the sense we used to have, that sex is okay, normal, instinctive, and something just about anyone can enjoy.